Support Grows for Saving Broadcasts to Baltic Countries Key Members of Congress to Back Measure

Washington, DC (JBANC) — JBANC has received confirmation from Rep. Henry Hyde’s (R-IL) office that the congressman will support the effort to restore funding needed to keep VOA and RFE/RL Baltic-language broadcasts alive. Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Hyde played a key role in passing the House State Department Authorization bill (H.R. 1950) Wednesday. Language in both House and Senate authorization bills includes provisions that prohibit the elimination of VOA and RFE/RL broadcasts to Central and East Europe for another two years, while authorizing a funding level of $8.9 million.

Support by Rep. Hyde is expected to provide crucial leadership and assistance in persuading undecided members to gather enough votes to approve the measure on the House floor. An amendment to restore funding for International Broadcasting is expected to be introduced by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), Co-Chair of the House Baltic Caucus. The FY04 State Department Appropriations Bill is expected to go the House floor next week and should be finished before the August recess.

Many have anxiously followed the congressional debate over the continuation of the International Broadcasting to Central and East Europe. The issue first gained international attention six months ago when the FY04 Budget Proposal presented by the Administration did not include funding to continue language services to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as other countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

Although the House Appropriations Committee did not allocate the funding needed for the continuation of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to Central and East Europe in the FY04 State Department Appropriations bill, momentum and support to approve such language in the House is growing. In addition to Representatives Hyde and Shimkus, other key members that support the continuation of broadcasting services include Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE), Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA) and Rep. William Lipinski (D-IL).

Deliberation of the State Department Appropriations bill is expected to start next week in the Senate Commerce, Justice, State subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) is the Ranking Member.